Modern stadia may look impressive but the match day experience can be diluted far too often as the new places fail to recreate the atmosphere that had probably been built up over decades and decades at the old ground. It takes time for fans to get used to being in an unfamiliar setting around people they don’t know. Of course, form is vitally important and if most home matches are being won then it makes the switch a lot easier.
The stadiums of FC Tokyo and Yokohama Marinos are nice enough but they are pretty bad for watching J. League football at. However, the Suita City Football Stadium (now officially known as Panasonic Stadium Suita) was designed at a cost of ¥14.086 billion just for football so there is no running track around it and the view is good from just about any of the 39,694 seats.
Bampaku-kinen-kōen station is the gateway to the stadium among many other things including a cinema, a shopping centre, something called English Village Osaka and the park which gives the station its name. Bampaku-kinen-kōen (Expo ’70 Commemorative Park) features several sculptures and artworks with Taiyo No To (The Tower of the Sun) the most notable and symbolic one. It was created by artist Taro Okamato and is 65 metres tall with the golden mask face representing the future, the face of the sun between the two outstretched arms portrays the present, and there is a black sun on the back to depict the past. I knew I had seen this tower somewhere before but it took me until about the second half to realise I’d seen it in a previous issue of J-Soccer Magazine as it’s red lightning flashes feature on the white Gamba away shirt.
The Golden Week holidays in Japan have resulted in trips to watch J1 games at Hiroshima Sanfrecce, Kobe Vissel and Shimizu S-Pulse in recent years so I was delighted to be able to add another top flight club to that list this time round. The fixture list gods were smiling down on me as by luck the only game whilst I was in Osaka just happened to be Gamba Osaka at home to Sagan Tosu.
Another stadium to cover in my ongoing ‘Around The Grounds‘ feature for J-Soccer Magazine and in the days preceding the match, I’d arranged to meet its editor Alan inside the stadium during the first half but by chance I came across him by the ticket gates at Bampaku-kinen-kōen station. I subsequently ended up spending the majority of my time there with him and to paraphrase his catchphrase, the pleasure was all his!!
The opening 45 minutes was pretty poor with just a couple of half chances at each end and a load of corners for Gamba. Not a surprise really given that both teams have been struggling thus far and occupied the second and third bottom places in the J1 table going into this game. We ended up watching the match from four vantage points with the action often playing second fiddle to our great banter!!
The second half was much better and a superb curling shot finally broke the deadlock 68 minutes in. Another one followed on 82 minutes as the keeper let one slip through him, and then Jesus finished things off two minutes into injury time to erm, help Gamba rise again on this particular Sunday! The two teams consequently switched positions in the table as Gamba continue to get back on track after a dismal start to this season.
The stadium was about half-full with 18,642 watching it. I can’t say I was wowed by the atmosphere but neither did I think it was terrible. I’d like to see it when it’s full for an Emperor’s Cup final or something like that.
Final Score: Gamba Osaka 3-0 Sagan Tosu